Patty Heard’s Story

June 7th, 2011 by | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Patty's First Cochlear Implant Surgery

Patty Heard first received her cochlear implant at the age of four years old in 1989 as part of the clinical trials.

I was born hearing. At the age of six months, I was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, very deadly for babies. The first night I was in the hospital, the doctors told my parents that I would not survive through the night. Luckily, I did and eventually conquered the disease. Right after, my hearing tested normal. When I was two years old, I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. The doctors thought that I lost my hearing sometime after the meningitis, due probably to the drugs used to treat the illness; it is apparently a common side effect after meningitis.It was very hard on my parents because there was no history of hearing loss like that in our family. They didn’t know what to do.

Patty's Activation Day

I used hearing aids for about a year or so, but I had no residual hearing, so they did not help me. I was put in a hearing impaired class at a public school at three years old. I had started speech therapy at age 2 before I could hear. They finally heard about cochlear implants. Even though it was not FDA-approved at the time, they felt like it was the only answer for me to have a normal life and be in the hearing world with my family. I was living in Fl and the closest CI center that had had a lot of experience with the surgery was in Texas at the time. We would have to fly back and forth several times. The doctors were unsure of doing the surgery on me since they had not done it on anyone that young yet. In January of 1989, I received an implant on my right ear.  I was the youngest person in America for a very short time and the first person in Florida to receive a cochlear implant.  From that point and on, my life and speech made a huge 180.

I became fully mainstreamed in second grade.  In middle school, I went to a public school that had a hearing impaired program.  I had an oral interpreter in the same program but I did not receive any help with any of my classes.  In the middle of my sophomore year, I transferred to my neighborhood public school to be closer to home.  They did not have any programs for the hearing impaired or disabled.  I went through high school with no problems.  I was very involved with the school.  I later graduated from University of Central Florida with a BS degree in communication sciences and disorders.  I had hoped to go back to grad school in a couple years to get my doctorate in Audiology, or I hoped to have an opportunity to work for Cochlear Corporation.

Patty with her Cochlear Implant Surgeon

I went through intense speech therapy for several years up until 7th grade.  Without my parents’ determination or cochlear implants, I would not be where I am now.  I am so grateful for my parents’ choice and conquering all the things I went through.  Sure, there are times when I hate being deaf but in the end, I consider myself a hearing person because of all the things I do.

I received my second implant in December of 2006 on my left ear.  I decided to go through it to have a better sense of directional hearing and in fear of my right implant failing since I still have the original implant from 1989.  I am not so sure about it because they do not make the nucleus 22 anymore. I have the freedom in my newly implanted ear. I was not happy with the appearance of it at all because it is a lot bigger than my nucleus 22. I am making myself wear it much more often though and am learning it’s benefits.

I love to hang out with my friends, talk on my cell phone (I’m always running out of minutes..shhh), dancing, having fun, listening to my iPod, etc. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. It has always been a way to show everyone that I can be like everyone else. I have been on school dance teams and competitive dance teams. During my years on a competitive dance team, we won the nationals twice! I did many things in college: Delta Gamma (sorority), being the president of UCF’s local NSSLHA chapter, holding positions in various charity-related clubs, etc.

Patty Heard Today

I have never been around deaf people except for the two summers I spent at summer camp at Clarke School in Massachusetts. Most days I forget that I am deaf since everyone treats me like a hearing person. Whenever I meet a new person, they would be shocked because of how I spoke and how I mingled with the hearing community. When I take off my implant to go to bed, I would be like “O yea, I’m deaf!” Those two are some of my absolute favorite feelings in the world!


Here are the newspaper articles about me that was written in the Florida Times Union:
- There was an article from when I first got my first implant activated in 1989, unfortunately I cannot find it.
- http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/012599/met_2b1Lookb.html (1999)
- http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/020707/neR_7358345.shtml (2007)

1 Comment

Ashley herring

August 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

Great article patty!!